The First Day

Palak Shah MD

I’ve had a lot of firsts in the last 30 years. Some of them mundane, some of them exhilarating, all of them necessary. Pertaining to this journey of medicine, however, there are no more numerous firsts as my “first days of school:” preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, junior high school, high school, college, graduate school, medical school and now….residency. I took a two-year hiatus from writing and reflecting because I needed to and wanted to. The whole point of this introspective journey and its public exhibition was to not lose my humanity. So then, in the past 2 years, have I regained what I thought I lost? I’m not sure, but in going through something harrowing and difficult as medical school and finally arriving at the end point of matching into my desired field in my desired location, I’ve realized, the journey feels a little cheapened without proper rumination concerning what it is I achieved and what was yet still left to achieve. In becoming a physician, my voyage may be finished from the vantage point of when I first started this blog some odd years ago but in so many ways, it is only just beginning. So here we go again as… “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past [and future].”

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Good Medicine & Good Literature

Throughout my life, people have always remarked at the duality of my passions. With my fair share of stints at research laboratories and unyielding desire for wanting to become a doctor, I’ve had a rigorous courseload of the sciences. It’s also no surprise that I’m indeed, a bibliophile. I believe when John Mayer sings the line “I was born in the arms of imaginary friends,” it’s meant for me. My first friends were the poems of Shel Silverstein, the ominous characters of R.L. Stine, and a 20-page compact autobiography of Abraham Lincoln conveniently devoid of anything about the Civil War. The library was my playground and had I visited an actual playground as much as I did the traveling bookmobile that was parked outside our house every Saturday, my BMI wouldn’t be so off-kilter these days.

Nevertheless I was raised in a culture and a university steeped in dogma committed to forming well-rounded individuals: someone who “knew something about everything and everything about something.” But my biggest quandary wasn’t to be the prime manufactured product of a liberal education; it was in making connections between the  “somethings” and the “everything.” Before you know it, your passions seemingly commingle, and the “something” and “everything” become “one thing.” Most people are still so quick to appraise medicine and literature as two different worlds, regarding the two as opposite as parallel and perpendicular. I tend to differ however. Just because our passions run similar trajectories in intensity and direction does not mean that they will not ever intersect. Continue reading